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Remembering the 'Radical Laird': George Kinloch as Local Hero in Nineteenth Century Scottish Reform Poetry.

George Kinloch (1775-1833), laird of Strathmore and the first MP for Dundee following the 1832 Reform Act, is today a little-known figure in Scottish history. Yet he was for a brief time a major figure in the Scottish reform movement, and was invoked as a symbolic character in Scottish reformers' poetry. Kinloch himself also made use of the emotional power of verse to communicate to his supporters during his short political career. His status as a folk hero of the reform movement is evident in the verse composed by his admirers, which was disseminated primarily through the Dundee Advertiser, though other Scottish periodicals, and street broadsides, also published them. Here, the focus will be on poetry composed about, or used by, George Kinloch between 1832 and 1872, during which time the city of Dundee and its relationship to the agricultural areas surrounding it were changing in response to industrial expansion and the parallel development of Dundee's civic identity. Poetry commemorating Kinloch came to not only represent a local radical history but a tradition of place-centred cross-class co-operation. The verse Kinloch inspired is more concerned with the importance of local identity to the Scottish reform movement than with the man himself: the details of his life and political attitudes were not at the forefront of the poets' minds. In part because of his brief exile in France, and in part because of his associations with both urban Dundee and rural Angus, Kinloch became deeply entangled with images of local landscapes, and by association with the idea of place-centred identity, which was a constant backdrop to the period of social and political change through which the poets and their readers were living. His by-name, the Radical Laird, may at first sound like an oxymoron, and historically it may well have been so proven, although this study is not primarily concerned with the actual political achievements of Kinloch. However, a dual identification with both town and country places Kinloch as simultaneously a historic guardian of land and people, and a dynamic agent of the political future.

One of the most important agents in the creation of the mythologising of Kinloch was the Dundee Advertiser newspaper, to which 'the Laird' himself was a contributor both before and during his political career. In the 1830s, it was a growing part of the Advertiser's editorial practice to include topical poetry alongside reportage, although it did not appear in every issue. The poems by local authors which were printed in the newspaper in the 1830s were almost all political, either relating to local issues, national news, or--as in the case of the Kinloch poems--the intersection between the two as perceived by a readership which was centred on Dundee and took in areas of Angus, Perthshire and north Fife. (Although historical circulation figures are not available, the picture of the Advertiser's early days given in its 1901 Centenary Memoir suggests that the paper did not have the resources to distribute much beyond Dundee. (1)) As is the case for all poems represented here, initials or pseudonyms were used more frequently than the author's full name during this period. While it is quite possible that readers knew the identity of at least some of these poets, it is now impossible to say much about them as individuals. The Advertiser was far from unique in the British newspaper world in publishing poetry, though the practice would become far more common in succeeding decades, particularly following the repeal of Stamp Duty in 1855. (2) Dundee in particular would later achieve fame for newspaper poetry as the home of the People's Journal and People's Friend, both from the same stable as the Advertiser, and both of which facilitated, printed and encouraged a remarkable body of working-class poetry and song. The immediacy of the poetry is intensified by the medium in which it was encountered--as well as being the stuff of history, they had something of the status of 'news', encountered alongside reportage, letters and editorials on the latest political developments. The poems discussed here, and their interaction with local political debate and sense of identity, foreshadow this flourishing of local newspaper verse later in the century, and indicate the communities fostered by these newspapers were built on older foundations.


George Kinloch was born in Dundee in 1775, a fact which both he and others would frequently reference later in life, although the Kinloch family were resident at Kinloch House near Meigle in Strathmore. The only full biography of Kinloch, Charles Tennant's The Radical Laird, was published in 1970, and draws heavily on Kinloch's own writings and correspondence. Tennant, being related to the Kinlochs by marriage, had access to a wealth of family papers. Echoing the poets who first elegised him, The Radical Laird also portrays Kinloch as a man essentially ahead of his time--a man with whom history has had to catch up. (3) As a teenager, Kinloch spent time in France during the Revolution, an experience which is often cited as having influenced his later political inclinations. After inheriting the estates of Strathmore, he took an active interest in the farming which sustained them, and was recruited to write monthly agricultural reports in the Dundee Advertiser from 1817. The Advertiser evidently had a significant agricultural readership, as advertisements for farm lets or equipment in the Angus, Perthshire and north Fife areas often appeared. In contrast to later newspapers published in Dundee, adverts in the Advertiser were aimed at farmers, rather than farm workers. Kinloch's reports, from the Carse of Gowrie area, for example, are also aimed at farmers, and feature advice as well as reports on the progress of crops and market prices. In his 'Report for December' (1818), Kinloch warned farmers that not only would 'immoderate competition' for land be ruinous to their business, it would harm labourers, 'whose interest, though rarely viewed by them in that light, is closely connected with the prosperity of the farmer'. (4) Kinloch's sympathy for both farmer and farm servant likely contributed to the growth of his reputation as a champion of land and people in Dundee and its agricultural hinterland. By the early decades of the nineteenth century, anxieties about the effects of growing industrialisation on society were already developing. John Morrison's reading of Fife painter Sir David Wilkie's Distraining for Kent (1817), which depicts a despairing farmer and his family on the verge of being evicted from their home, suggests the image represented a general fear that the loyalties fostered in small communities were already dissipating, to be replaced by a distant, depersonalised system. (5) In his supporters' minds, Kinloch came to represent a model for political change which still upheld traditional place-centred tics between landowner and his people.

The Advertiser supported the radical viewpoint, and Kinloch knew its editor, Robert Rintoul, from their mutual involvement in local political meetings. (6) Kinloch's involvement in Dundee politics began with his active support for a campaign to reform the corrupt town council in order to facilitate the development of the harbour in the mid-1810s. This required an Act to be passed in parliament, and Kinloch travelled to London to assist in the process. (7) While this appears to be a relatively mundane matter of local politics compared with the franchise reform movement, his work for the campaign for harbour redevelopment provides an interesting context for Kinloch's later political role. The campaign was led by a combination of local interests that included both radical reformers, whose main goal was to see the council run more democratically, and wealthy merchants, whose primary interest was improving trade in the city by forcing the inert council to allow harbour development. Kinloch shared interests with both groups. The experience makes the later collaboration between laird and radicals less surprising than it may seem at first. The intricacies of local allegiances can be overlooked in the historical study of politics. Kinloch's companions in the harbour development campaign included the Advertiser editor Rintoul, and Robert Stewart, the surgeon who had originally launched the paper in January 1801, frustrated with the lack of radical newspapers based in the east of Scotland. (8)

With his respectable standing, high public profile, and known interest in radical politics, Kinloch must have seemed an ideal choice of figurehead and speech-giver for the group of reformers, many of whom were weavers, who organised a meeting at Dundee's Magdalen Yard (now referred to as Magdalen Green) on 10 November 1819, in the wake of the Peterloo Massacre. Unsurprisingly, the Advertiser favoured his role, describing Kinloch as 'one of the ablest and most public-spirited of our country gentlemen.' (9) This was not his first address to crowds here: he had also spoken to a meeting calling for parliamentary reform at Magdalen Yard in 1817. (10) The speech Kinloch gave in 1819, however, and its aftermath, came to symbolise not only his own political career but also Dundee's sense of political mission. In a speech replete with Shakespearean references, Kinloch put forward a case for 'Radical Reform, on the base of first Annual Elections, secondly Universal Suffrage, and thirdly, Political Voting by Ballot.' (11) He repeatedly insisted that he was not advocating anything but orderly conduct, and certainly not revolution. Among the resolutions Kinloch proposed to the crowd was that Lord Sidmouth, the Establishment's 'spymaster', was guilty of 'the highest species of treason,' namely that against the people, and dismissal from office would be 'far too lenient a punishment for him.' (12) This may have been the call that brought such a severe reaction from the authorities: Kinloch, along with Rintoul, and James Saunders, publisher and vendor of the Dundee Advertiser, were charged with sedition. Kinloch was taken to Dundee Tolbooth to await trial and possible deportation to Botany Bay, while across Britain the Magdalen Yard meeting attracted attention, as did his arrest and subsequent failure to attend trial. (13) Even at this stage Kinloch's social status was affecting coverage, as little interest seems to have been shown in the fates of the less illustrious Rintoul and Saunders. Kinloch escaped to France and stayed there as an outlaw for around four years, returning to Britain in 1822, apparently on the assumption that the release from jail of Henry Hunt, the radical orator arrested at Peterloo, meant his own pardon was approaching. In fact, he had to spend a few months in London under an assumed name until his pardon was officially issued in May 1823. At this point he returned to Angus, and at first kept clear of politics. However, a combination of popular support, delivered mainly by the Dundee Advertiser, and goading by his Tory detractors in the pages of the Dundee Courier, convinced him to stand for election in Dundee. The town had been given representation by the Reform Act in 1832, and in December of that year Kinloch was elected as Dundee's first MP. He retained an anti-revolutionary stance, declaring in a letter to his wife that he would not be influenced by 'extremists' like William Cobbett, although the two definitely communicated. (14) Kinloch's popularity extended far beyond Dundee, and he received correspondence from various political groups across Scotland, England and Ireland.

It is at the point when he stood for election in Dundee that Kinloch began to become a focus for political verse, though much of the verse looked back to earlier events. 'A Friendly Advice to David Charles Guthrie, Esq., of Idol Lane', a song set to the tune 'Kenmuir's on an' awa', was addressed to his rival, the Tory candidate D. C. Guthrie. Published in the Dundee Advertiser, it says more about Kinloch than about Guthrie himself:
Now Guthrie, gae 'wa to Idol Lane
An' dinna stay plaguin' us here.
Your borin' an wheedlin' are a' in vain:
Sae set aff an' leave the coast clear.

Chorus: Kinloch is the man for us, boys--
Kinloch is the man for Dundee;
He mak's na ony great fuss, boys;
But tried and honest is he.

Then, Guthrie, gae 'wa to Idol Lane,
An' count o'er your siller an' notes
We've real Reformers o' our ain,
That better deserve our votes.

Kinloch, &c.

Then Guthrie, gae 'wa to Idol Lane--
'Twas idle in you to come here;
You're no a Reformer like our ain--
You canna be trusted, I fear.

Kinloch, &c.

Sae Moses, gude day to you: Dinna come back
We want na the like o' you here:
It's honest an' tried Reformers we lack--
They're brown-stout; you're only sma' beer.

Kinloch, &c. (15)

Here, Kinloch is presented as an authentic and familiar choice for the newly enfranchised voters. The fact he is local is a key part of this familiarity. By contrast, Guthrie's politics are given minimal attention, and the focus is on his outsider status in Dundee. As is frequently the case with nineteenth century political songs, the chosen traditional tune carries associations which resonate with the new lyrics, invoking older connections in readers' or listeners' minds. The tune 'Kenmuir's on an' awa' would have been chosen due to the lyrics composed to it by Robert Burns in 1791 for the Scots Musical Museum (in turn, these words were probably adaptations of, or additions to, an older song from the Galloway region). Burns wrote:
O Kenmure's on and awa, Willie,
O Kenmure's on and awa:
An' Kenmure's lord's the bravest lord
That ever Galloway saw.

Success to Kenmure's band, Willie!
Success to Kenmure's band!
There's no a heart that fears a Whig,
That rides by Kenmure's hand.

Here's Kenmure's health in wine, Willie!
Here's Kenmure's health in wine!
There's ne'er a coward o' Kenmure's blude,
Nor yet o' Gordon's line.

O Kenmure's lads are men, Willie,
O Kenmure's lads are men;
Their hearts and swords are metal true,
And that their foes shall ken.

They'll live or die wi' fame, Willie;
They'll live or die wi' fame;
But sune, wi' sounding victorie,
May Kenmure's lord come hame!

Here's him that's far awa, Willie!
Here's him that's far awa!
And here's the flower that I lo'e best,
The rose that's like the snaw. (16)

The narrative of the brave, well-loved Kenmure has evidently been chosen to allude to Kinloch: their names even share an initial and could be interchanged without altering the scansion of the song. By drawing parallels between Kinloch, the reformer, and Kenmure, the Jacobite, the song suggests a shared history of Scottish lairds who fought for and alongside their people against an alien authority. Guthrie, in contrast, is the outsider to the local political scene. The positioning of Kenmure/Kinloch as 'away' reinforces his popular status as exile, but also anticipates his future journey to represent Dundee in parliament, simultaneously a triumphant homecoming and a new adventure. (17) The song itself encapsulates a time of hope and determination, and of collective action from the 'band', in Kinloch's case the reformers of Dundee, who were in pursuit of ideals much more modern than those of Kenmure's Jacobite followers.

'A Friendly Advice' appeared as part of a growing tradition of political verse in the Dundee Advertiser, whose editorial line was very much in support of reform generally, and of Kinloch in particular. Indeed, the poem appeared below another set of verses insulting the Tory candidate as a London incomer set to various Scottish tunes, including one to 'A Man's A Man For A' That'--a very frequently re-used lyrical model for songs advocating political justice--ending with the line 'Kinloch's our man for a' that.' (18) It is an indication of just how strong Kinloch's association with Dundee and Angus was becoming at this stage that, despite being derided as a southern interloper, D. C. Guthrie was in fact as local as Kinloch himself. Guthrie was one of the Guthries of Craigie in Angus who were, in the words of Charles Tennant, 'London Merchants to the extent that they had an office there [...] They were all powerful Tories and, even at the beginning of the present [twentieth] century, the Radical "Dundee Advertiser" was forbidden in the house of the Taybank Guthries.' (19) Guthrie's business concerns are used as evidence that his commitment will be to his profits, and not to the interests of the Dundee area and its people. Despite being a comparable figure to Kinloch in many ways, both hailing from established Angus families, Guthrie is shown as having abandoned his homeland in favour of social climbing and further monetary gain. Despite Kinloch's farming interests also bringing him profit, the sense that he was involved in and connected with people through his demonstrable involvement with the land works in his favour.


Upon Kinloch's inauguration as an MP, someone writing under the pseudonym 'Patrioticus' sent a song titled 'Caleclonia, Adieu!' to the Drmdee Chronicle, claiming the words were written by Kinloch himself. The editor was doubtful, as is this author, but the song was still printed in full. The Dundee Courier and Argus, reprinted the song in a later commemoration, claiming the Chronicle's editor 'had been credibly informed that the verses had been seen in the handwriting of Mr Kinloch,' but not when and by whom. (20)
Farewell, Caledonia! thy cloud-crested mountains,
Through tears and through twilight recede from my view;
Farewell to thy glens and thy heath-covered fountains,
Dear haunts of my childhood, I bid you adieu.
No more shall my harp wake thy echo's wild slumbers,
For freedom's bold strains on thy breezes I'll strew;
Now sad is each cord, and the heart-cheering numbers
Arc lost in the wail--"Caledonia, adieu!"

Farewell, dear companions, tho' severed in sorrow,
Yet fixed in my memory forever you'll dwell;
And there from the visions of past scenes, I'll borrow,
A balm which my bosom's sad grief shall expel.
And thou, my loved mansion, all drear and forsaken,
Oft fancy shall brood o'er thy pleasures anew:
And those strains that delighted thy mirth to awaken
Shall soothe as they sigh--"Caledonia, adieu!"

Yet, land of my fathers, more fondly I'll love thee,
As far from thy shores a lone exile I roam;
And oft as I view yon star lingering above thee
Mv bosom shall glow with remembrance of home.
Then, Scotland, farewell! as ye fade o'er the ocean,
What feelings of anguish my sad soul subdue;
For who but an exile can feel the emotion,
As he sighs--"Caledonia, a long, long, adieu!"

Alas! my poor country, that thus I should leave thee,
A prey to a cruel and blood-thirsty crew;
My crime was my doing my best to relieve thee
From thraldom and misery, shocking to view.
And e'en when an exile, the part I have taken
To free thee, my country, I never shall rue;
My mind is at ease, though lone and forsaken;
1 sigh--"Caledonia, a long, long adieu!"

But the time's not far distant when public opinion,
Inscribed on the banner that Liberty wears,
Shall crush with contempt the black-hearted minion,
The curse of thy wretchedness, sorrow, and tears.
Then Justice once more her bright standard erecting,
The charter of equal laws soon shall renew;
And triumphant Reform, all abuses correcting,
To oppression we'll bid an eternal adieu! (21)

While the poem may well have been composed as a response to Kinloch's time in France, and clearly came to represent this period in the eyes of Dundee's readers, there are no other surviving references to Kinloch writing his own verse, and its authenticity is only vaguely attested to by the Chronicle's editor, suggesting the attribution of these verses to Kinloch may be a result of popular tradition. No tune is given, which is typical of printed songs circulated in this period, but the form and language would likely suggest Byron's 'Lochnagar', first published in 1806. As Kirstie Blair demonstrates in her forthcoming Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press and Community, 'Lochnagar' inspired many similar poems and songs remembering Scottish landscapes of mountains and glens from a position of exile. (22) Many authors of poems in this genre presented themselves as emigrating in search of work, so Kinloch's status as wealthy landowner, made explicit as he laments the loss of his 'loved mansion', makes him an unusual focus for a poem of this kind. However, he is placed in a tradition of Scottish political exiles through the author's choice of pseudonym, which symbolically links Kinloch to Thomas Muir of Huntershill, also known as 'Patriot.' Muir, arrested for sedition in 1793 following his involvement in reform groups, also spent time in France allegedly to avoid sentencing, though, unlike Kinloch, he was transported to Australia (from where he later escaped, and he was again resident in France at the time of his death in 1799.) (23) In later poems, discussed below, the term 'Patriot' is again attached to Kinloch, continuing the association between him and the heroic figure of Thomas Muir.

Though set during Kinloch's exile, the poem may actually have been composed following his return and election, meaning the future it envisions a partially fulfilled prophecy at the point of composition. The poet takes on the role of folk historian (a role signposted by the bardic references to harps and strains in the first verse) chronicling Scotland's journey towards greater democracy, and gives the story legitimacy by adopting Kinloch's voice to tell it. James Coleman discusses the importance of a sense of shared past in creating national feeling in Remembering the Past in Nineteenth Century Scotland. He emphasises that in order to be successful there must be potential for these stories of a shared past to link to potential future success: a sense of nationality is born of a relationship 'between memory and experience.' (24) Many of the reformers' poems celebrating Kinloch, explicitly or implicitly, seek to make this connection between the historical past and their own experience of political change. Though the events they refer to were still recent, people were evidently aware they were living through a significant historical moment. Through making use of references to major historic symbols of Scottishness, the reform movement was elevated to a similar level of national and historical importance.

While Kinloch may not have been a poet himself, by the time he was elected to represent the city of Dundee in parliament, he certainly understood how powerful his image as poetic patriot was to his success. At a public dinner held in his honour in January 1833, the speech he gave made some significant poetic references, firstly and unsurprisingly to Burns' 'A Man's A Man For A' That,' and secondly to Alexander Boswell's version of 'Argyll is my Name,' from which he quoted the lines: 'To faction and tyranny equally foe, the good of the land's the sole aim that 1 know.' (25) Kinloch expressed his hierarchy of priorities as being firstly the public and the community at large, secondly the local interest, and finally that of any individual. (26) The full verse from which he quoted (with a slight change in wording) echoes the image of a politician in touch with the people and landscape he represents:
Argyll is my name, and you may think it strange,
To live at a court, yet never to change;
To faction or tyranny equally a foe,
The good of the land's the sole motive I know;
The foes of my country and king I have faced;
In city or battle I ne'er was disgraced.
I've done what I could for my country's weal,
Now I'll feast upon bannocks o' barleymeal.

Ye riots and revels of London, adieu!
And Folly, ye foplings, I leave her to you.
For Scotland I mingled in bustle and strife
For myself I seek peace and an innocent life.
I'll haste to the Highlands, and visit each scene,
With Maggy, my love, in her rockley o green;
On the banks of denary what pleasure I feel,
While she shares my bannock o' barleymeal. (27)

The choice of imagery in these verses suggests Kinloch understood not only the importance of his association with a simple, rural life to his popularity, but he was also aware of the part poetry can play in establishing and emotionally reinforcing this. Not only does he share the concerns of the people he represents, he shares their lifestyle, seeking quiet domesticity and simple food, represented through rural scenes and the typical 'bannocks o' barleymeal,' as opposed to the 'riots and revels' of London, a necessary evil he must undergo to safeguard his constituents' interests in Dundee and its environs. Perhaps self-consciously, Kinloch embraces the Dundee reformers' image of him as essentially an agricultural man, whose love of his land and the people who live there are the driving force behind his politics.


Kinloch was only able to enjoy his popularity for a short while, dying in London in 1833 at the age of fifty-seven, just two months after the opening of Parliament. His sudden death at the beginning of his career as MP left an unrealised future onto which his supporters could project potential achievements, and the poetry composed on his death reflects this. The rather hyperbolic 'Stanzas on the Death of George Kinloch, Esq., M.P.', by 'G.D.', was sent to the Dundee Advertiser in sympathy from a Glasgow reformers' organisation. The poem was preceded by a quote from Shakespeare, 'If you have tears, prepare to shed them now,' (Julius Caesar), perhaps consciously echoing the many quotes from the Bard he incorporated into his 1819 speech.
Mourn, "Bonny Dundee," for thy pride and thy glory--
"The Friend of the People"--their trust and their stay--
The terror of tyrants--of Whig and of Tory--
Kinloch, the unflinching, lies cold in the clay!

Mourn, Scotia, thy favourite, now prostrate, a martyr
To freedom--a victim to traitors accurst!
He saw them defiling fair liberty's charter,
And sorrow, indignant, his virtuous heart burst!

Mourn, Albion, thy country, where millions are swearing
That faction no longer shall wither thy rose!
Mourn, Erin, Oh, mourn! As thy banner thou'rt rearing,
Whose motto will blast, to destruction, thy foes!

Kinloch was no yesterday's hero-creation--
No sunshine nor holyday patriot was he,
When the battle raged fiercest, the front was his station,
Till forced by the malice of demons to flee!

He fled, but with honour, like Wallace before him--
He retired to return to the conflict anew--
He returned--and the place that threw infamy o'er him,
Was proud to proclaim him a leal man and true.

And now he has fallen, in the midst of his glory!
And the stern-chosen few that have fought by his side--
Whose names shall, with his, shine in fame's future story--
Are weeping, disconsolate, a friend and a guide!

But let them take comfort;--his ashes shall nourish
What soon shall, in victory, consummate their cause,
Then the homes of our fathers will gladden and flourish,
'Neath the birth-beams of men--equal rights--equal laws! (28)

The Dundee Advertiser made it clear they approved the sentiment, and not the style or quality, of the verse:
We insert the following lines, not so much from (sic) their intrinsic
merit, as to show how warmly our Reforming brethren of the West were
interested in Mr Kinloch's election for Dundee, and how deeply his loss
is regretted in that quarter. This is but one of many effusions on the
same subject, and breathing the same spirit of independence, that have
appeared in the columns of our Western contemporaries. Our table is
covered with similar verses from our own correspondents; but it is a
pity that their poetical powers have enabled them to do but scanty
justice to the warmth and sincerity of their feelings. (29)

The Advertiser, as an official, quality newspaper, distanced itself from the reformers' periodicals by questioning the 'intrinsic merit' of the poetry. However, they also took the opportunity to highlight the even lower merit of the poetry produced by local writers, while still revelling in the glory that 'their' politician had inspired poems from further afield. The idea of Kinloch as a front-line defender of the people (arguably not a historically accurate one) is made explicit here, in part through the comparison with Wallace. The figure of William Wallace was frequently evoked in nineteenth century Scotland as a symbol of freedom, solidarity or rejection of authority, and the temporal distance and lack of historical knowledge surrounding his life and motives meant that he could comfortably be incorporated into almost any political cause which wanted him. (30) There is irony in describing Kinloch as 'no yesterday's hero-creation', then invoking a Wallace almost entirely created in retrospect as evidence of this. Kinloch, in G.D.'s eulogy, is a hero who contributes a Scottish voice to a reform campaign taking place within a three-kingdom Britain. Scottish patriotism in the 19th century could happily co-exist with a British identity encompassing both England and Ireland as partners, in this case one particularly one rooted in the ideals of progress through reform: the 'idealistic nationality' which James Coleman identifies as being used to promote shared understanding between nations/ Kinloch's personal story was cut short in mid-action, but it is recognised here as part of the wider history, still in progress, of the reform movement. Kinloch himself is the figurehead, but, like Wallace, it is what he represents that is truly important: national freedom of a kind, but a freedom that must be achieved by the people themselves, which will result in equality enshrined in law.

Efforts to officially commemorate Kinloch, which took several decades to be realised, were negotiated in the context of a developing civic identity, as Dundee expanded substantially in size and increasingly asserted itself as an ambitious manufacturing centre. (32) Dundee's official designation as a city was not granted until 1889, but by 1870 the growth of the town and its population meant life in Dundee had become a decidedly urban experience. The 1871 Police and Improvement Act, which aimed to solve issues of overcrowding and poor housing, was also a signal that Dundee's council intended to begin taking civic leadership seriously. Alongside improvements in hygiene and street layout, amenities such as libraries and parks became important foci for civic identity. Unrealised proposals made in 1862 that Kinloch be commemorated through a free library and museum were met with general approval and were in keeping with this development. (33) So too were the several campaigns to raise a statue to his memory, a goal which was realised in 1872 after several setbacks. The process of bringing the statue into being was fraught with difficulty, indicating that the civic authorities' vision of Kinloch as a figure whose historical purpose had been fulfilled was at odds with many of his admirers' views of him as a symbol of the ongoing quest for reform. Matthew Jarron's history of art in Dundee outlines the problems the positioning of the statue caused." The town council--in particular future Provost William Brownlee, who had been tasked with arranging the statue--wanted Kinloch to face the street, in keeping with a sense of addressing the people. However, a significant body of public opinion, again finding voice in the Dundee Advertiser, thought Kinloch's statue should face the nearest government building (which was, somewhat anticlimactically, a Post Office), to remind Dundee that his attack had been on an unjust government. Indeed, at one point, the statue's pedestal was surreptitiously shifted to face the Post Office, though it was returned to its original position before the statue was placed there.

Likewise, the inauguration organised by Dundee City Council aimed to bring a civic urban community together in a way which presented class and national unity not through a shared struggle but through a lens which suggested the fight for democratic reform had already been won. The Provost compared Kinloch's day to the present one, calling attention to the 'almost universal' franchise of 1872 and emphatically stating, 'There are no revolutions among us.' (35) The tunes chosen for the event re-state old associations: as well as the psalm tune 'The Old Hundredth', they played 'Kinloch of Kinloch', and 'Why I Left My Home', a variant of 'The Lowlands of Holland' which takes its name from Ivrics by Robert Gilfillan describing an exile lamenting the loss of 'Scotia's shore.' (36) Also included was 'Rule Britannia', which, as an official anthem, was symbolic of Kinloch's induction into the establishment. Kinloch's statue was erected during a period in which statue-building was popular across Britain and Europe as a means of strengthening collective identities through reference to cultural heroes. In Scotland, the cultural hero of choice was Robert Burns (and Dundee's Burns statue, erected in 1880, was by John Steell, the same sculptor who designed the Kinloch monument.) Christopher A. Whatley's study of the commemoration of Burns identifies a similar tension between the meanings attached to Burns statues by statue committees and by the wider public: while many Scottish councils, including Dundee's, were happy to celebrate Burns' (and Kinloch's) historical associations with radicalism, this occasionally came at the price of obscuring contemporary ideas of Burns as a hero of an ongoing working-class movement. (37) In general, however, both statues' inaugurations met with a high degree of public approval.

While the success of the statue campaign brought Kinloch into the sphere of Dundee's civic identity, verse portraying Kinloch as a rural figure still resonated. In response to the success of the statue campaign, the People's Journal published a song, 'Lament for "Kinloch", collected by 'D.B.B.', 'from the lips of an old lady in the Perth Road' who had been a supporter of the man and his cause:
There's grief in the cot, there's grief in the ha',
The hamlet, the hovel, the cities an' a'.
There's weeping and wailing by land and by sea
For the loss o' our patriot, Kinloch o Dundee.

There's loud lamentation by bank, burn an' brae,
The cattle are lowing, the birdies are wae,
And pour forth their ditties on ilka green tree,
In strains fu' o grief for Kinloch o Dundee.

For who like Kinloch stood the brunt and the strife,
Exiled frae freedom, his frien's, and his wife,
Wha was forced by the bloodhounds his country to flee,
Frae his hame and his fields, like Kinloch o Dundee?

But now, since our hero is laid in the tomb,
We never will find one to fill up his room;
But the young and the healthy will vet live to see
A monument to his memory put up in Dundee. (38)

Following Kinloch's death it was said this song had been 'chanted throughout Dundee to a mournful air,' and 'thousands' of copies of the words were sold. (39) The final couplet is uncannily prophetic, given the context in which interest in this song was revived. It may have been added by either the singer or the collector in order to lend historical legitimacy to the campaign (although a statue was first proposed at the time of Kinloch's death.) The language and style of this song are closer to traditional folk songs than most of the other verse discussed here, and its simple couplets are suited to memorisation and oral transmission. A phrase similar to the opening line is used to very different effect in the traditional ballad 'The Baron O Brackley,' in which 'there's grief in the kitchen, there's mirth in the ha" highlights the class and moral divisions in the wake of the Baron's death between his loyal servants and his treacherous aristocratic wife. In the 'Lament for Kinloch,' the grief is shared, not only between rich and poor but between urban and rural, re-emphasising on a more local scale the geographical unity expressed in the above poems, though the uniting of 'cities' also indicates mourning on a national scale. Despite his strong identification with Dundee in these lyrics, the landscape of mourning described is primarily a pastoral one: the cattle and birds are part of a 'natural' ecosystem which is entirely invested in the fates of its human inhabitants. The image of Kinloch being forced to flee from his fields suggests he worked them with his own hands, rather than collecting income from work done on his estates, not all of which were in Scotland: he continued, while securing his reputation as a defender of the people, to collect income from the work of slaves on the Grange estate in Jamaica, which he had inherited from his uncle. (40) It is not clear whether his supporters were unaware of this or simply did not think it worthy of comment.

The specific status of the laird may be key to how strongly Kinloch's association with landscape, locality and people developed. A laird was not necessarily a distant figure to his tenants, as estates were often small enough to function as communities, and traditionally a laird was considered to have some degree of responsibility towards tenants (at least in theory.) For example, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the household libraries of many Scottish lairds were used as public resources for their tenants, with books borrowed by the community. (41) 'Lament for Kinloch' evokes an idealised and locally based class relationship in which the landowners have the best interests of the people at heart. Its reprinting in 1872 also evokes a sense of association between Dundee and its agricultural surroundings which, though by no means absent by the 1870s, was being renegotiated in response to the city's industrial expansion. John Morrison has examined how Scottish paintings of rural labour in the second half of the nineteenth century were used as exemplars to suggest the changes which were needed in the industrial city--by depicting scenes which gave dignity to labourers, centred the family bond and fostered community integration, painters highlighted their absence in contemporary cities. (42) Kinloch, as a landowner who very publicly sought representation for those he represented, became the focus for these images in poetry. His ability to represent both Dundee, through his parliamentary position, and rural Angus through his role as laird, allowed his image to unite urban and rural Scottish identities during a period of history when these spheres were diverging in terms of lived experience. As such, he was seen as one of the last lairds to take his responsibility to the people seriously, while also taking on the role of guardian of the future as MP. He is given the role of both local hero and national hero, patriot of a Scotland which was part of a Britain united through political struggle, but whose identity was informed by a distinct sense of its own history. Representations of Britain and its constituent countries are characterised by selective solidarity depending on political allegiance. Kinloch's life and actions are historicised within years, even days, of their occurrence through appeals to an empowering nostalgia, drawing on symbols of the Scottish past. However, the poems always combine their nostalgic appeal with reference to ongoing action, and historical precedents are invoked as a guide to the possible future.


(1) A. H. Millar, The Dundee Advertiser 1801-1901: A Centenary Memoir (Dundee: John Leng & Co, 1901), pp. 7-9.

(2) For example, sec Andrew Hobbs and Claire Januszewski, 'How local newspapers came to dominate Victorian poetry publishing', Victorian Poetry 52.1 (2014) pp. 65-87 (p. 73). Hobbs & Januszewski give figures for the increasing volume of poetry published in English regional newspapers. Between the years 1820 and 1840, during which the poems discussed here are composed, the estimated number of newspaper poems in the English press increased from 6,287 to 16,764 annually.

(3) Charles Tennant, The Radical Laird: A Biography of George Kinloch 1775-1833 (Kineton: Roundwood Press, 1970).

(4) Dundee Advertiser, 1 January 1819, p. 3.

(5) John Morrison, Painting Labour in Scotland and Europe, 1850-1900 (Abingdon: Routledge, 2014), p. 34.

(6) Tennant, p. 95.

(7) Millar, p. 27. The harbour dispute is briefly covered by William Kenefick in his chapter 'The growth and development of the port of Dundee in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries', in Louise Miskell, Christopher Whatley and Bob Harris (eds), Victorian Dundee: Image and Realities (East Linton: Tuckwell Press, 2000), pp. 38-50. Further details, including political poems inspired by the issues, are held in the A. C. Lamb collection in Dundee Central Library.

(8) Millar, pp. 2-4.

(9) Dundee Advertiser, 12 November 1819, p. 2.

(10) Millar, p. 27.

(11) Tennant, p. 139.

(12) Ibid., p. 135.

(13) Dundee Central Library [DCL], A. C. Lamb Collection, (17/7).

(14) Tennant, p. 239; DCL, A. C. Lamb Collection, (438/15).

(15) 'A Friendly Advice to David Charles Guthrie, Esq., of Idol Lane', Dundee Advertiser, 30 August 1832, p. 3.

(16) James Johnson (ed.) Scots Musical Museum (Edinburgh: Johnson & Co, 1839) IV, p. 370.

(17) Presumably, the allusion is exclusive to the narrative of the song, not to subsequent events--Viscount Kenmure and his men were defeated shortly after joining the 1715 Jacobite uprising, and Kenmure himself was beheaded in London. This unfortunate fate is absent from Burns's lyrics.

(18) 'A New Song', Dundee Advertiser, 30 August 1832, p. 3.

(19) Tennant, p. 236.

(20) 'Caledonia, Adieu!', Dundee Courier & Argus, 3 February 1872, p. 5.

(21) Ibid., p. 3.

(22) Kirstie Blair, Working Verse in Victorian Scotland: Poetry, Press and Community (forthcoming). I am grateful to the author for sharing this work with me.

(23) H, T. Dickinson, 'Muir, Thomas (1765-1799)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn., (accessed 29 June 2018].

(24) James J. Coleman, Remembering the Past in Nineteenth-Century Scotland (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), p. 8.

(25) Dundee Advertiser, 3 January 1833, p. 3.

(26) Ibid., p. 3.

(27) Kinloch seems to have quoted Boswell's version as given in George Farquhar Graham, Wood's Edition of the Songs of Scotland, Adapted to their Appropriate Melodies (Edinburgh: Wood & Co, 1857), p. 136. However, the reference in his speech to 'our Bard' suggests he thought he was quoting Burns's slightly different lyrics.

(28) 'Stanzas', Dundee Advertiser, 26 April 1833, p. 4.

(29) Ibid., p. 4.

(30) Coleman, pp. 39-40; Graeme Morton. Unionist Nationalism: Governing Nineteenth-Century Scotland (East Linton: Tuckwell, 1999).

(31) Coleman, p. 10.

(32) Charles McKean, '"Not even the trivial grace of a straight line"--or why Dundee never built a New Town,' in Miskell, Whatley and Harris (eds), Victorian Dundee, pp. 15-37. Here McKean outlines the development of the city's planning and architecture from the mid-eighteenth century until the expansion of the jute industry in the 1870s.

(33) Dundee Courier & Argus, 5 February 1872, pp. 3-4.

(34) Matthew Jarron, Independent and Individualist: Art in Dundee 1867-1924 (Dundee: Abertay Historical Society, 2016), pp. 42 43.

(35) Dundee Courier and Argus, 5 February 1872, p. 3.

(36) Murray J. Neil, The Scots Fiddle: Tunes, tales and traditions of the north-east and central Highlands Volume I (Moffat: Lochar Publishing, 1991), p. 18.

(37) Christopher A. Whatley, Immortal Memory: hums and the Scottish People (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2016), pp. 33-36.

(38) DCL, A. C. Lamb Collection (217/12).

(39) Ibid.

(40) 'George Kinloch MP', Legacies of British Slave-ownership database, [accessed 29 June 2018].

(41) Peter Reid 'Patriots and Rogues: Observations on Scottish Lairds and their Libraries, 1700-1900', The Information Landscape in Scotland 1600-1900, 1 July 2017, University of Dundee (keynote address).

(42) Morrison, p. 55.


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Author:Farley, Erin
Publication:Scottish Literary Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUS
Date:Sep 22, 2018
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